The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

President Obama’s favorable numbers just hit an 18-month high. Why?

Here's the headline from a new Gallup poll release this morning: "Obama Favorable Rating Up, Best Since September 2013." And here's the chart that makes that point.

The natural next question is: Why?

Gallup noted that the upward movement in Obama's favorability ratings is largely due to independents. A majority (52 percent) of independents now view Obama favorably as compared to 46 percent who said the same in an April Gallup survey.  Obama's numbers among Democrats (90 percent favorable) and Republicans (13 percent favorable) are statistically unchanged from that April survey.

Gallup's theory on the warming of independents to Obama goes like this: "The recent increase in how Americans view Obama, and likely also his performance, might have something to do with his attempts to bridge various communities in recent months -- such as police and racial minorities; Cuba and the U.S.; and members of Congress from both parties who are pro- and anti-trade."

Er, I guess.  But, I also think that may be overthinking it somewhat. I am not sure anyone -- and especially independents --  are following the trade debate all that closely, for instance. My theory is that, in the absence of bad news, these unaffiliated voters tend to want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. There's been far less harsh back and forth between Obama and Republicans playing out on peoples' television screens of late. His role as a dad and husband has been a lot more front and center.

That pattern -- a shift in focus from incumbent president to the race to replace incumbent president -- is one that happens to virtually every politician who occupies the White House for eight years. Not being in the national spotlight as much makes it harder for the president to exert his will -- even on his own party -- but also means that the way he's regarded by the public tends to improve (or, at least, soften) somewhat.

Remember, too, that we are talking about relatively small changes month to month. But, if you look at where Obama was in Gallup polling at this time last year and where he is today, the upward trajectory is unmistakable. So far, it's been a good fourth quarter for Obama.